If you plan to make multiple DIY products for your home, it’s important to start building an ingredient toolkit. It may seem like you’ll need a bunch of fancy products and a chemistry degree to formulate homemade cleaners, but that’s simply not the case. Most of the ingredients used to make homemade products are basic ingredients which you may already own and be using in your home.
12 Must-Have Ingredients to Clean Your Entire House, Naturally
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a naturally occurring substance. Baking soda is used in homemade recipes to fight against dirt, grease, and odors. I prefer cooking with Bob’s Red Mill brand baking soda, but for cleaning, I stick with the big bag of Arm & Hammer.
Ingredient Caution: Baking soda can be added to many homemade mixtures; however, you should never combine baking soda and vinegar (they cancel each other out).
Recipes to Try: 8 Money-Saving DIY Recipes Using Baking Soda
Washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate and sold under the Arm & Hammer brand, is highly alkaline which makes it a great cleaner! The high alkaline level allows washing soda to act as a solvent. Washing soda can also be used to fight against hard water, since the washing soda binds to the minerals, which in turn can boost laundry soap’s effectiveness. Washing soda can be found in the laundry section of most grocery stores, or you can make it at home using baking soda and an oven–I’ll show you how in the cleaning book coming out on November 23rd!
Vinegar is 5% acetic acid. This acid fights against bacteria and other yuckies you don’t want living in your home. Vinegar can’t be used on every surface (like marble and granite), but even with its limitations vinegar is an extremely versatile product to keep in your natural cleaning toolkit.
Ingredient Caution: Vinegar can be combined with many amazing cleaning ingredients; however, vinegar should never be combined with castile soap, hydrogen peroxide, or baking soda.
Castile soap is a concentrated vegetable-based soap made of ingredients you can actually pronounce. This soap is gentle on the skin and effective in the fight against dirt, grease, and unwanted germs. Dr. Bronner’s is a very a popular brand of castile soap.
The world is just a better place with castile soap, really! Castile soap can be used to clean just about anything and everything: your face, your laundry, and even your stinky dog! Pretty amazing stuff.
Ingredient Caution: Castile soap can be combined with many amazing cleaning ingredients; however, castile soap should never be combined with vinegar.
Sal suds is Dr. Bronner’s tougher version of soap, although its chemical makeup makes it a detergent, not a soap. Sal Suds is formulated to conquer tough cleaning projects: unforgiving grease and stubborn dirt. Sal Suds is a hot topic in the natural community, so it remains a product that some use and others stay away from. What’s all the fuss about? Sal Suds receives an A on the Environmental Working Group’s website. You can also read more about the big SLS debate on Lisa Bronner’s blog.
Lemons (Also, Limes and Oranges):
Fresh citrus, particularly lemons and lemon juice, are amazing natural cleaners. Lemons contain antibacterial properties which aid in fighting unwanted germs and bacteria in the home. Lemons also work to help brighten dull linens in my homemade whitening recipe. Plus, citrus provides an amazing fresh scent to homemade cleaners. Orange and lime peels can be added to vinegar for a fresh antibacterial cleaner.
Essential oils are very popular today, but the truth is before the popular oil brands marketed online and bloggers started filling Pinterest with recipes, essential oils were being used by generations before us.
Essential oils are basically concentrated oils derived from plants. For those wanting a more scientific definition, here’s how Retha, a certified aromatherapist from Plant Therapy, defines an essential oil, “An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam.”
Essential oils not only provide a pretty, natural fragrance to homemade cleaners, but also important disinfecting properties. A few of my favorite essential oils for cleaning, include: lemon, tea tree, peppermint, lavender, and orange.
My favorite trustworthy and affordable essential oil brands for cleaning include: Aura Cacia, NOW, and Plant Therapy. All of these brands can be found online.
Out of all the ingredients I use to make homemade cleaners none are more hotly debated than good ol’ borax. Over the years, some people have expressed concerns that Borax isn’t a safe homemade cleaner. I take just the opposite view, especially when you compare super effective Borax to most of the main-stream cleaners on the market.
While I feel safe using Borax in my cleaning recipes, I take care to avoid inhaling this ingredient and keep it away from little hands that may choose to taste-test some of the white powder. The product receives an F according to the EWG for respiration concerns (don’t purposely sniff inside a box of Borax!). I believe this article from Wellness Mama offers valid points to why we shouldn’t throw the Borax out with the box.
The results of using Borax in homemade recipes is quite impressive, so don’t skip this ingredient if a recipe specifically calls for Borax. Trust me, the result just won’t be the same.
I have very “fond” memories of hydrogen peroxide as a young child. I clearly remember my many playtime booboos and my dad applying the bubbly substance called hydrogen peroxide to the dirty ouchies. As it turns out, I’d grow to love this common ingredient later as an adult. In fact, I keep quite the stock of hydrogen peroxide in my home due its amazing disinfecting properties (hey, clean ouchies and laundry!).
Ingredient Caution: Never combine hydrogen peroxide and vinegar when making homemade cleaning recipes; you will create peracetic acid which can be irritating and corrosive. Hydrogen peroxide also demands a bit of extra storage care since it’s sensitive to light, so it should be kept in a dark container/space (ever wonder why the hydrogen peroxide bottles are brown?).’
Alcohol (Vodka and Rubbing Alcohol):
The guy at the liquor store knows me well and it’s not because I’m a lover of exotic alcoholic beverages. I’m still trying to convince him that my large vodka purchases are due to my love for homemade vanilla extract and cleaners.
Vodka’s high alcohol content is perfect for killing germs, and even mildew or mold. You can also use alcohol to help shine chrome and glass. Simply wipe a surface with a cloth that’s been moistened with vodka, and viola–squeaky clean! Vodka may also be used to kill odors and freshen-up fabrics. That’s right, kiss the Febreze good-bye.
Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is considered an anti-septic and sold as such in grocery stores. Rubbing alcohol is used in homemade cleaners to kill germs. I know some people in the natural community avoid rubbing alcohol for cleaning purposes. Vodka may be safely substituted for rubbing alcohol in cleaning recipes.
Kosher or Sea Salt:
Yep, add good ol’ cooking salt to your DIY toolkit. Salt has been well-known for centuries for its cleaning and preserving properties. Salt can be used to soften hard water and clothes, and even used as a natural scent booster. And its abrasive properties can be used to scour dirty surfaces, particularly when paired with a lemon or lemon juice. Costco and many grocery stores sell large boxes of salt for $1-2.
Recipes to Try: Laundry Softener and Scent Booster
Olive oil (I use an inexpensive olive oil specifically for cleaning) can be used to condition furniture and dust surfaces. When it comes to skin cleansing, olive oil is a great facial cleanser.
When making homemade products, clean tap water may be used for temporary storage; for long-term storage use distilled water or boiled and then cooled water to limit the possibility of bacteria growth.